Dexter Ep 8.12: ‘Remember the Monsters’ a much better finale than one could have expected

Michael C. Hall in Dexter Ep 8.12 'Remember the Monsters?'Dexter, Season 8, Episode 12, ‘Remember the Monsters?’
Written By Scott Buck & Manny Coto
Directed By Steve Shill
Airs Sundays, 8pm on Showtime

When you begin dreading the final episode of a show you love, it should really be an understandable reaction, one born out of fear and sadness that it is coming to end. Thanks to a collective brain melting session in the offices of Showtime’s Dexter however, this dread has come about due to the pessimistic angst that the closing chapter, the final lines, will be utterly botched and thus conclude the tainting of a once grand story with amateur nonsense. There’s no doubting that the awful quality of Season Eight has left an indelible mark, meaning that anyone going into the grand finale should be wary of being hopeful. Bearing no expectations is probably the best way to go into ‘Remember the Monsters’. Doing that, perversely, means you will actually get a hell of a lot out of it. In a twist greater than anything the show could present in-universe, the finale is actually, honestly, pretty damn good.

The spokes of the bike have been well and truly obstructed; Dexter heads to the airport with Harrison ready for his new life abroad alongside Hannah, blissfully unaware that sister Debra has been shot, his quarry Saxon is on the loose once more, and pesky PI Elway is on his tail. Desperate measures to keep those he loves out of harm’s way grounds him in Miami and means he has to face up to the consequences of his very nature, from taking defensive measures to looking at himself in a mirror darkly, truly assessing what is the best outcome. Chances are nobody, not even the genius Dex, can see what is coming.

It’s this strain of unpredictability that will doubtless dominate discussion, and spark some controversy, since the show ends on a note that not only contradicts trusted spoiler material but also the greater predictions of hardcore fans. Everything from the big emotional climax, one that is almost unbearably cruel and brutal, to the unthinkably genius final scene, is fodder for heated debate. The greatest testimony one can pay to the decisions made is that they are not cheap and easy, obvious or facetious. In many ways, the direction taken is bold and daring, very liable to be met with hostility but none the less one that actually fits the show’s ethos right down to the ground. The mood as the end credits roll for the last time is one of sadness, not shock, not elation.

Geoff Pierson & Michael C. Hall in Dexter Ep 8.12 'Remember the Monsters?'

That’s not to say that it is perfect, but the duo of Scott Buck and Manny Coto make damn good work of proving that they are capable of much better things that the last few weeks have suggested. As a standalone episode, ‘Remember the Monsters?’ is easily the best written and best directed of Season Eight and shows an attention to detail which had been glaringly absent in the build up. This means that goodbyes feel more meaningful, the nicely judged flashback scenes featuring Dexter and Debra are more emotionally poignant, and the action flows naturally and succinctly in tandem with the plot. Although something of a Deus Ex Machina, the storm is used well, Saxon is deployed far more effectively as a truly nasty villain, and each trick of the trade employed by the characters is smart and well executed. There are also some nice, subtle references to the past, always a welcome feature.

It is not, however, a grand finale in the finer sense of the term, and anyone expecting a mass charge by characters from Dexter’s past should dissuade themselves of such notions before viewing. Although there are a couple of twists in the tail, only one of them is truly shocking…in fact this particular choice is not a Shyamalan game changer, it is pure Diabolus Ex Machina, one that is very nearly unfair on both the fans and the characters. The same kind of mentality is used to bring about the real ending, one that admittedly does use some brief deception to hide itself in the final frames. It offers a superb call back to the first ever episode, and makes sure that there is no happy ending to Dexter’s story. Just the way it should be, really. There’s no redeeming what Dex is, what he’s done and caused, so having him ride off in to the sunset would be unsuitably naïve. His final decision, and the events that reinforce it, show that although he has been dumb this season, he is not entirely stupid overall; that small degree of self-loathing in his twisted psyche wins out for the good of others.

The great loss that cements this choice is heartbreaking, both in its nature and the way it is portrayed and the fact that Steve Shill has come in and actually offered some kind of creative enterprise to the direction is a huge relief. Daniel Licht’s music is used very well throughout the episode, while visually certain moments are beautiful to look at. It means that the one huge moment, one great scene, actually has the sense of significance and emotional heft to get a reaction from the audience. It’s also worth noting, from a writing point of view, that the decision Dexter makes has been long since foreshadowed by a seemingly throwaway exchange during Season Three, back in the show’s heyday. The final voyage of the Slice of Life is one that should draw some tears from those diehards who have been on this journey since Dex first said “Tonight’s the night”.

Desmond Harrington & Jennifer Carpenter in Dexter Ep 8.12 'Remember the Monsters?'

This should really apply to the entire episode, however, which is an indictment of the fact that it is the first time that the real Dexter has surfaced in months. No matter how much you appreciate the choices made, or cry at the drama presented, it cannot be denied that the impact of the finale has been substantially diminished by the fact that the preceding chapters were so unbearable. It is a positive bonus that Elway and Saxon are used well, written well and actually have some substance, but nothing more since they were slaves to contrivance and plot previously. Having characters react realistically, Batista scrutinizing when the cause arises, doesn’t make up for the fact that a couple of episodes later he wouldn’t have cared. The reason Season Four’s ending was so powerful was because it wrapped up a beautifully constructed story. Season Eight’s ending merely pulls out all the stops to make sure fans aren’t disappointed. What should have been a colossal event ends up feeling like a generous consolation prize.

The ending chosen also doesn’t bear the signs of long term planning, which is understandable given that the show never began with a set ending in mind other than personal ambitions, and the fact that the season was so badly plotted out suggests that the writers were working on the fly and thus constricted in what they could do. Focus dilly dallied from episode to episode as characters were introduced, built up, killed and forgotten about in a chaotic fashion, potential arcs and themes disposed of early in favor of fresh blood that, typically, was then spilled a couple of weeks later. It means that ‘Remember the Monsters?’ has no real relation to the Season opener, and that the late Evelyn Vogel’s only real impact in retrospect was being the cause of the season’s poorly conceived villain, who in turn is only significant for an event he causes that could have happened any other way. Let’s make no mountains out of mole hills here; Season Eight was a terrible final season, an utter disgrace to the show, and the ending was sullied as a result.

Michael C. Hall & Desmond Harrington in Dexter Ep 8.12 'Remember the Monsters?'

It’s more than a shame because from the evidence of said ending, it could and should have been much better. The episode is driven by a strong, complex central performance by Michael C. Hall, who had previously been criticized for the first time in the show’s run. Jennifer Carpenter, always golden regardless of the script, plays her A game here and there is also a dark horse heartbreaking display by Desmond Harrington, showing a vulnerable side to Quinn that we haven’t seen before. Sadly, there is no second shot at a send off for Harry. James Remar, tragically, marked his last appearance with a terribly carried out goodbye in the dreadful previous episode, and it is this sort of regret that boils the blood more than simply wasted air time.

Always working against circumstance, Dexter’s finale unfortunately wasn’t able to generate enough power to give a truly appropriate send off to the show, one that could satisfy and spoil its fans in the manner they once upon a time took for granted. It is, however, as good as can be expected given that it followed up a series in severe decline and is still able to tug at the heartstrings and offer a conclusion that, while perhaps not bound to be universally loved, at least takes a stand and holds its ground. Few shows manage to create an unforgettable ending, and Dexter is not one of them. But what it did do was remove its head from the sand and produce an hour reminiscent of better times, even as the events on screen reminded us of what is now lost from those days. One person in particular will be mourned as dearly as the lost quality.

Last night was the night, for the last time. It may not have been special, but it was good enough to say goodbye on. All things considered, that was better than any of us could have hoped for.

Scott Patterson



By Scott Patterson

Born to unknowing parents, Scott hails from the land seen as romantic to those who don’t know, and a place for heavy drinking and hypocritical cynicism to those who do know. Although he’s yet to rise to great acclaim and disgraceful rich antics, he writes fiction and factual, the latter mainly on his greatest passion of film, in all forms and variety, all genres or styles. What matters to him is a good story, whether it be in cinema, literature, anecdote or excuse for having a suspicious stain on one’s trousers. His sense of humor falls somewhere between wry and outrageous, and he fights hard every day to avoid misunderstood in this regard, though not in any other. His politics can be best described as militantly neutral, bordering on passive aggressive. Favored pass times include watching what he calls football, and will never stop calling football even if it is lost in a common language, quiet conversation with friends, a night at the movies and the company of a darling woman, preference vague if not fluctuating. Favorite Films: Apocalypse Now Memento The Fountain Fight Club Inception LA Confidential Seven The Usual Suspects Wonder Boys Goodfellas

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16 Responses to Dexter Ep 8.12: ‘Remember the Monsters’ a much better finale than one could have expected

  1. Matt September 25, 2013 at 2:56 am

    This was probably the worst ending ever. All season we’ve been coaxed into believing that Dexter can change, that he never was a serial killer, as he did have feelings of true love and empathy, and he HADN’T KILLED ALL SEASON until the finale – which, wasn’t nearly as satisfying as it would have been having Saxon on his table…with Deb’s hospital picture “LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE DONE!” Why is he now a lumberjack? How could he have survived a storm that destroys a BOAT? Why did Dexter not get ink poisoning? I really tried not to criticize this finale, but if you want a tragic but good ending to a series, take a note from Spartacus’ finale. I really hope that Showtime don’t make a spin-off, just leave us with the memories of the past 7 seasons.

    Reply
  2. T Prince September 24, 2013 at 1:41 am

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO That ending sucked!!! I was so mad , y dump deb in the water ?? She didnt deserve thst he treated her like another kill I was like Whaaaatthef…. then when he rode off into the storm I was like, uhhhhhh still mad but ok he kills himself …then bam the bullish came rolling round the corner A LUMBERJACK wtf smdh

    Reply
  3. Freefinger September 23, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    one more thing, the whole thing about Dexter getting the DNA from the guy who killed his sister.. Excuse me but the worst lawyer in the world that just got out of school would’ve had him walk right out of that court house just by saying “Wait.. The guy who you know that killed his mother who you know that you investigated the crime scene and brought his DNA to the police confirming him as the killer that just killed your sister was swabbed by you .. the guy who hates his guts… Judge, I request that the case be dismissed RIGHT NOW!” and he would’ve gotten the case dismissed…

    We saw those detectives work with a serial killer over the years and never even got one clue that would tie him to murders, we thought “Ok.. They’re not the best team out there.. Maybe they drink too much..” but to hear him say “I wanted everything to be perfect” (or something like that can’t remember the exact words) and go “Ah ok.. Good point.. Oh Well.. ” is the one scene where we learn that the Detectives of this series are the worst to have ever worn a badge in criminal history..

    Reply
    • tmack September 24, 2013 at 2:43 am

      Dexter wasn’t getting DNA. He was supposedly testing for GSR–gun shot residue–to get evidence for the case. Of course, the GSR text was just a ruse to get him close enough to Saxon to kill him. Saxon was never going to get the trial.

      But I agree that riding into the hurricane was kind of corny & it did bring to mind Batman somehow escaping that nuclear blast. But Dexter has never been written as realism; it is like Batman in that it’s a dark fantasy with a superhero-like protagonist. You can’t judge it like it’s Law & Order or a police procedural.

      Reply
    • Scott Patterson September 24, 2013 at 6:17 am

      Freefinger,

      There’s no doubt that the set up is rife with problems, and it’s an aberration that nobody caught on to who Dexter was even in the closing stages by which point it didn’t even matter. It does indeed make the department look insanely incompetent. Surely somebody should have noticed how often people in Dexter’s life are murdered, or how LaGuerta was killed within a day of accusing Dex or murder.

      Playing Devil’s Advocate, since the ending didn’t go down the way I wanted it to either, I will say that Dex faking is own death in the manner he chose makes sense on a writing level, even if it is a dramatic conceit; it means he’s able to put Debra with the rest of his victims, destroy his boat as a means of suggesting his own death, and enter the storm which symbolically represents him finally giving into the darkness once and for all. It also tricks the audience into thinking he really is dead, although it had already been set up that Dexter loathes the idea of suicide. Cheap? Yes. But it still works as a scene, albeit not a particularly logical one.

      I’m also a loving fan, so watching the show fall apart so dramatically has been heart breaking. It’s not just Season 8, which was without doubt the worst of the show’s run; Season 5 started making mistakes not seen on the show before, Season 6 was garbage, and Season 7 only just managed to get things back on course. After all that I was expecting a total stinker of a finale, so the fact that we got was at least partially positive was a huge boon. Low quality sets low standards and as a result I was satisfied with the final episode even though it wasn’t up to par with the earlier seasons. At least it wasn’t as ridiculous as Monkey in a Box or Goodbye Miami.

      And I’ll defend that final shot, comparisons to TDKR accepted, as I do feel it makes for a suitable conclusion; DEXTER is alone, miserable and living an empty, meaningless existence. That servitude is a far greater punishment than death by storm or even lethal injection.

      Reply
  4. Freefinger September 23, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Good end??? .. WHAT!?!?… Seriously he pulled a freaking Batman!! Goes straight into a Hurricane .. on a little boat… in the middle of a shark infested OCEAN… and he comes out in Wolverine’s backyard sporting his beard. I mean, killing him off in the hurricane was bad, a cop-out from an actual ending to have him live through it is just ridiculous.

    I mean, we can bitch and yell and it won’t change anything at all and no one at that screenwriters table gives a craps a$$ of what we think. But for this Original series to have been so good for so long to end on one of the worst season of all in that fashion shows that at one point HBO needs to get good writers in those chairs who won’t close the loop on so many stories in one season so fast by bringing in so many new characters and giving Dexter another killer that could go head to head with him to be killed with a damn pen in 30 seconds after they showed us how good this one was was plain stupid.

    I’m sorry but I was a huge fan of the show, and this season was a total let down from ep 1 to the last one. And this was a let down. They took the easy way out.

    On the one last shot, I was waiting for him to say “I’M Batman!” in a raspy low voice…

    Reply
  5. erik September 23, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Nice writing

    Man people cry like little bitches i liked the show, he got what he wanted from the beging to be human an feel emotions now he has to live with those emotions an he chooses to live in solitude with them or he moves around alot we dont know , if you guys didnt like she show after season 4 then why did u keep watching 4 more seasons i was happy with the hole series an i hope in a few years they make a movie that would be cool.

    Reply
  6. Maverick Perry September 23, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    “a much better finale than one could have expected”

    …only because everyone expected it to be just as awful as the rest of the season and it only turned out to be just bad.

    Reply
  7. Scott Patterson September 23, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Anonymous,

    As much as it could have been better, I think a far worse ending (which seemed likely) would have been Dex, Hannah and Harrison getting a happy ending in Argentina with no consequences or closure to the key themes and legacy of the show. Under the circumstances, and the set presented by the season, it was probably the best they could do with it.

    Reply
    • tmack September 24, 2013 at 2:28 am

      I agree. And I think it was a wise decision–storywise–to have Deb die instead of Dexter. Her death brought out the completion of the 8-year-long character arc for Dexter, showing him as a human who has learned to love and feel pain and bond instead of just selfishly indulging his appetites and robotically mimicking appropriate behaviors. Dexter didn’t show this much heartbreak after his wife died.

      Reply
  8. anonymous September 23, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    terrible terrible terrible! worst ending imaginable!

    Reply
  9. Scott Patterson September 23, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    ScottsScrotum,
    What did you find that didn’t suck? I’m eager to know! P.S. When did I teach you to read or write?

    tmack,
    It’s always a relief to know that you aren’t the only person who has noticed diminishing quality. Frankly the episodes leading up to the finale became unbearably poor on so many levels that I could have repeated myself even further. It seems the writers changed, and the new stable didn’t have the same talent for long term or even short term planning. The biggest problem with the later installments is filler and contrivance due to a lack of thought.

    rakharo,
    I think the contrast in quality is what made it seem so worthy. I’d be interested to see how well it would work following a solid season.

    Reply
  10. ScottsScrotum September 23, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Scott, suck it piggy!

    Your review sucked.
    Your writing sucks.
    Your body of work sucks.

    In fact, you’d have to search extensively to find something about him which does not suck.

    Even the bio sucks.

    It’s like a suckfest of epic proportions.

    Reply
    • Deepayan Sengupta September 23, 2013 at 6:24 pm

      It really is loyal readers like you that make it all worthwhile.

      Reply
  11. tmack September 23, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Uh, I think you made your point, repeatedly, about the deterioration of Dexter. But you are preaching to the choir who’s finally glad to be shut of the whole thing.

    I also agree with you about the finale, which was much better than I expected it to be — a respectable ending. (I wonder how many people, confused to see logging trucks in a Miami/coastal story thought that they were into the next show on the channel? I flicked on my info to see what show I was watching!) Committing a mercy killing was an ironic last act of Dexter’s character arc that proved even psychopaths can have a heart.

    To go back and join you in beating the dead horse, it’s been years since I’ve watched every single episode of Dexter. I didn’t watch every single episode of the final season, it was really that bad. What happened to the writers? Why did Breaking Bad actually get increasingly excellent over the years while “the exact reverse opposite” happened with Dexter?

    Reply
  12. rakharo September 23, 2013 at 9:12 am

    I liked the final episode too. It was not perfect but after the awfulness of the season it was good to see an emotionally resonant finale. It is not going to be tv’s greatest finale but it had a lot of good moments. I particularly liked the acting. Jennifer Carpenter’s agony was heartbreaking to watch, Desmond Harrington was fantastic in the interrogation scene and for the first time this season even Michael C Hall seemed to be inspired. The only thing I did not like was the Hannah character but at least she had a good function this time. Overall I’m pleasantly surprised. This was a worthy finale.

    Reply

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